Monday, February 04, 2008


Y'know, I've struggled for years to explain how Japan is, but definitely isn't, Westernized. It is, in the regard that it's as choked by brand-label vanity, toxic television programming, and horrible wannabe reggae as any other Occidental enclave. It most definitely isn't, in that such a superficial veneer has been haphazardly shellacked atop a millenia-old society with very different tendencies.

But how to succinctly explain this without being a prattling know-it-all? I'd struggled similarly in the past, trying to split hairs between Canadians & Americans. Mercifully, I'd managed to whittle that diatribe down to a metaphor: imagine sifting diamonds out of coal dust through a siv, wherein the diamonds are Canada, the siv is European sensibilities, and the coal dust is America. (The Yanks didn't like that, but sod them. It's true.)

Of course, that didn't really answer the Japan question. So bless the repository of supremely strange online flotsam that is the WFMU blog for having posted this neuron-popping, patience-exhausting McDonald's ad remix made by... some young artist in Japan.

All of a sudden, there is a yardstick, a barometer, a recognizable cultural gold standard that typifies how Japan digests & refracts Western pop culture. No need for vague metaphors or stumbling similes - we're using algebra, baby! If I may,
A x Japan = X
wherein A (short for "America," natch) is:

...and Japan is:

...ergo, X becomes:

QED, bitches. The theorem holds true across the whole of American culture. For example, let's now examine:
A x Japan = X
wherein A=Rock 'n' Roll, or:

...and Japan is:

...and so now, X becomes:

Yowza! But wait - I'm not arguing that Japan makes everything cooler, though the results thus far would seem to imply such an aesthetic judgement; there are certain cultural phenomena that are, mildly put, hideously mutated in translation. Let us see what happens when A=Hip-hop, or:

...and Japan is: let's have a look, when A(Hip-hop) x Japan = X, at what happens to X :

That ain't right. But hey, who am I to argue with mathematical absolutes? Now let's venture into more shadowy territory: what we're examining are reflections, refractions, radical transformations of one culture when it is mediated by another. So what happens when the source material is already a reflection, a reinterpretation, a postmodern perversion? What happens when a distortion is further distorted? What happens to A x Japan = X when, say, A = Ironic bass-less deconstructivist blues:

...and Japan is:, gird your loins for this result, kiddies:

Sweet merciful crap. What hath math wrought?

1 comment:

Ariana said...

I have to admit I didn't take the time to actually watch all those videos, but I love your Canada-America metaphor.